Believe the hype. Chef Andrew McConnell does it right. Again.
My first so-called memory of Cutler & Co was ironically a year before we even stepped into this place. I was laying on the couch back home in Chicago, reading the monthly Food & Wine Magazine that we subscribe to, when I read the rave reviews about Cutler & Co in Melbourne. Being the person I am who gets excited over news about food and the dining scene, I quickly sent a text message to my sister who lives over there. Have you been to Cutler & Co, I asked her. No, but I've heard it is very good. Let's go there together when you visit and I will make advance reservations, she replied.
Fast forward one year, and there we were at Cutler & Co together with the family for an early Christmas dinner. Advance reservations are highly recommended and many thanks to my sister who scored a table for us three months in advance.
We headed to Cutler & Co in two cars, with T and I in my brother-in-law's car. When he parked the car along the section of Gertrude St according to the restaurant's street address, he asked "Are you sure you've got the right address? This part of Gertrude St doesn't have fancy restaurants." We got out of the car, walked a bit, and saw the sign for Cutler & Co. Yup, we were at the right place.
Some standouts were the cured kingfish with avocado puree, radish, and bonito flakes. The smoked roe on cracker was also very good as an appetizer. My medium rare beef loin was very good as well. They had a suckling pig on special which could feed 2 people and my sister and bro-in-law got that. We washed that all down with some excellent wine.
As many outstanding accolades this place has received, the atmosphere is unpretentious although classy. You could come in your dress or a suit or even dress jeans if you prefer, and you won't feel out of place in the dining room that will offer you excellent food. Service was professional and friendly without any pompousness.
I'm such a big fan of any form of raw fish and could not pass up on the cured kingfish. Fortunately for me, it did not disappoint and was impressive all the way. The accompaniments of avocado puree, radish slices, and Japanese flakes (togarashi), drizzled with bonito dressing had a hint of Asian influence to it which all came together very well.
The smoked trout en croute came in a form of roe and trout slice delicately placed on a cracker. Each piece could be easily picked up by the fingers and then popped into the mouth which made for an excellent palate teaser.
The grass fed beef strip loin was recommended to be prepared medium rare (lucky me, as I only eat my steak medium rare). Without conforming to the traditional approach where a server typically asks the diner how he or she would like their steak done, at Cutler & Co this beef strip loin is prepared medium rare by default, as the chef feels it is the best way to bring out the best in the beef in texture and flavor, according to our server. My dad, who ordered this same item as me, requested his to be prepared medium instead, to which the server said that they would absolutely accommodate. The verdict: my medium rare beef was tender and juicy at every bite, while the medium beef which my dad requested did not impress him too much. He then said, "Ahh, I think medium rare would be better". The main dish also came with short ribs that had been braised overnight resulting in a very tender texture. The charred pearl onions and cauliflower puree were nice touches to the dish.
The duck was prepared two ways, smoked and fried, and served with beetroot. Again, the meat was executed perfectly with a tender texture.
The meats and seafood preparation were done very, very well and ironically, the most mundane ingredient, potato, was an item that stood out the least. The side order of roasted potatoes were not crispy on the outside although very creamy and soft on the inside. We also liked the lettuce salad that was presented tossed in lemon vinaigrette that gave it a refreshing flavor.
Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude Street
2012 Gourmet Traveller Third Best Restaurant in Australia
2012 Diners' Choice Award by The Age Good Food Guide
2011 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year
2011 Gourmet Traveller Sommelier of the Year Nominee
2011 Chef's Hat Award by The Age Good Food Guide
2010 Chef's Hat Award by The Age Good Food Guide
2010 Chef of the Year by The Age Good Food Guide, Andrew McConnell
2007 Chef of the Year by The Age Good Food Guide, Andrew McConnell
2002 Young Chef of the Year by The Age Good Food Guide, Andrew McConnell